T Nation

Tips for Dealing with Water Retention?


#1

Hi CT.

I do have a question, but before I ask I’ll say that I’ve been a long time reader and always love your advice and insight. Keep it up, and I hope all your own pursuits are going well. Maybe I’ve failed to check somewhere obvious, but do you blog about your own training and diet etc.?

To the point… water retention.

I think it’s ruining my physique and mindset, and always makes me want to go on a cut. I don’t think I’m fat, and if I ask my brother (who I train with everyday) if he agrees, he looks at me like I’m crazy.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been weighing and testing my bodyfat on my Omron scales when I wake up, and the numbers average out at 79.4kg, 15% fat. I’m quite sure I’ve found my maintenance calories (3100-3200) and macros as the averages for each week have been exactly the same and I’m always energised. For what it’s worth, when I go to bed, my weight is around 81kg and fat around 12-13%. I don’t know how accurate my scales are, but they seem to be consistent, so I mainly track the direction and magnitude of change in the numbers.

Too often my face feels puffy and my vascularity fluctuates wildly. I got my evening bodyfat down to around 8% (same scales used) last year, and yet I still wasn’t consistently vascular and face puff was often a problem. One thing to note is that I do look slightly better when I am more active throughout the day, and especially after a workout (I can post photos if it’ll be useful). Unfortunately, I am mostly sedentary apart from the 2 hours I spend in the gym each day.

Maybe I need more muscle? Probably. Definitely. I really want to focus purely on maximising strength and muscle, and plan to start your “Look like a bodybuilder, perform like an athlete” program on Monday. The design really appeals to me and I love to incorporate clean and snatch style movements. However, I think I might be hindering my progress by being to reserved with the calories.

In 2009, I weighed just under 100kg at 20-25% bodyfat, and my face looked horrendous - like I’d been stung by a bee. So unhealthy and bloated. I also had gut problems which were later diagnosed as Coeliac (Celiac in the US) disease, so maybe this is related.

I do have a few “cheat hours” at the weekend where I eat ice cream, popcorn, cookies etc., to curb the cravings, although I desperately want to kick this habit as I rarely enjoy the feeling afterwards!.

Also, this year has been the most stressful of my life, and I’ve never felt lower or more depressed at times, so maybe this is a factor too. Gym to the rescue though.

Pretty sure I partly answered my own question.

Trying not to ramble. Just trying to give as much relevant information as possible.

So, is this just “me”? Am I fatter than I think? Or is there something else I could do?

All the best.


#2

Not that much because the result is influenced by water levels… do you really think that you lose 3% body fat during the day, only to regain it during the night?


#3

I honestly did not read the whole post. Too long for the time I have. I did get the water retention part. And SOME of the weight might be water retention. If that is the case it can be due to diet (too much sodium not enough potassium, too much fast carbs for your body’s capacity to process and store them in muscles, possible food intolerance, consuming too much pro-inflammation foods like red meat, etc.) or the stress could be part of it.

Not drinking enough can also make you retain more water as a defense mechanism.

And maybe you just aren’t as lean as you think (or the machine says). At a TRUE 10% you have full abdominal visibility a well defined 6 pack)… at a TRUE 8% you have veins on your lower abs… at a TRUE 6% you have veins on your obliques and abs


#4

Hello Thib,

I actually suffer from this as well. I have veins in my lower abs, triceps and sometimes even middle of my abs yet don’t have that full, defined 6 pack. Some days it’ll be there some days not. And even recently my face has been getting puffier too.

My potential culprits are I do eat red meat everyday and potentially not eat enough kcals and not enough salt. The rest is clean and at least 5-6 portions of veg everyday with lots of turmeric & fish oil. I do look at my best after a cheat meals morning. I know this is a very general question, but how would you go on it?

Thanks a lot


#5

I think this question was rhetorical, but I’ll answer anyway. No, I know body fat does not change by 3% per day. I added that info because I thought it could be related to my question regarding water retention.

The sodium-potassium relationship is interesting, and I’ll look into that further for sure.

My total daily sugar intake is usually around 100-120g.

I’m starting to think that I’ve overblown the issue in my mind, and the likely explanation is that I’m not as muscular and lean as I thought. Suffice it to say, I probably have an image problem and I find it very hard to dedicate periods of time to either maximising fat loss, or gaining muscle. I’m always trying to accomplish both at the same time and this is probably the issue. Hopefully your latest program will help with this!

Thanks.


#6

This is the issue 9 times out of 10

A lot of competitive bodybuilders claim that they retained water on stage while they just didn’t diet long enough.

Your REAL look is the look you have near the end of the day. The look you have in the morning is a depleted (dehydrated) one and it makes you look leaner than you really are.

Being objective about you is the most important part of reaching your goal.

Now, understand that the more fat you carry, the more you will tend to retain water. The leaner you are, the less you will retain water. Both go hand in hand.


#7

BTW, this is me at 8%… you can see veins on the obliques and abs… if you didn’t look lean like that when you were supposed to be 8% then you were not 8%


#8

And that was 10%… the machines that work with bioimpedense like you are using aren’t worthy of use IMHO.


#9

As a rule of thumb people who think they are…

6% are 8-9%
8% are 9-11%
10% are 12-14%
12% are 15-17%

And those who say “I’m about 15-18%” really just want to say “I have no idea how fat I am, but I’m pretty sloppy” and generally they are over 20%


#10

At the time of my profile photo, my scales were reading 8-10%. I wasn’t as vascular or muscular as you though. Vascularity has always eluded me it seems.

I know what to do - get more muscle and lose more fat. Perhaps the water retention thing is just a way of me saying “I’m not happy with my leanness and muscularity, so I’ll find something to blame it on”.

I’m going to be test driving your program, and I’ll be taking photos and tracking everything religiously. You already seem to be living proof of your methods, but I may write up my results after the first cycle.

Thanks for your input.


#11

then you were not 8% … these scales are NOT accurate. I’ve had a guy with veins on his abs test at 18% and someone with no abs test at 9%. Water balance and muscle mass can screw up the results . The w2ay the scale works is by sending an electric current through the body and calculate body fat based on how long it takes to go through the body SOOOOO many variables others than fat mass can affect this.

Forget the vascularity, at a true 8% you have a hard time pinching any skin anywhere on your body.


#12

That is a very mature thing to say. And you are likely correct.

The thing is that most people don’t realize how much fat they need to lose to be truly ripped.

There was a young bodybuilder I trained. He never competed but was a fairly solid 215lbs. He told me that he wanted to be 198 on stage. I told him that in true contest shape he would be 176, he didn’t believe me… didn’t believe that he needed to lose 40lbs to look great… well on contest day he was… 177lbs!!! He won the contest BTW. At 177 he looked like he was 220!

But he was 176… my normal estimation for men is that when you have FULLY defined abs (six pack and obliques) you have 15-20lbs to lose to be ripped. People just don’t realise how much fat they need to lose, and by extension they overestimate how much muscle they carry.

Here are pics of him at 215 and around 180

In the “fat” pics he though that he was about 12% body fat, thus estimated that he had only 18-20lbs of fat to lose to be 6% and thus 198 in contest shape… in reality this is closer to 20%


#13

I think my abs may just be well developed to the point where they show even at higher body fat levels. It’s just hard to ignore the numbers, especially as a maths grad!

Here’s a screenshot of my spreadsheet showing the past three weeks of data. At the very least, my scales seem to be consistent, and I still find them useful for monitoring the direction of change, rather than the absolute values, of my body fat and lean mass etc.

I weigh around 176 lbs already, and I’m lean, but definitely not ripped! Guess I won’t be cutting any time soon! I don’t know about you, but I fear gaining body fat, especially as I used to weigh around 220. Part of me still wants to understand what it takes and what it means to be silly shredded though. Maybe next year.


#14

My own experience defou confirms CT’s words of wisdom. With the help of 5/2 diet listed on this website, I was able to lean out to 96kg from 103kg (thanks TC!). Difference is night and day, and I am still probably around 12% BF. Truth be told, at 103kg I would have said I was 14% BF. As per CT’s explanation, it was more like 100% BS!

Back to the original point: IMHO, inflammation is a huge player in water retention. After a no-carb, keto-style fasting day with restricted calories (800 kcal per day), I wake up what most people would call shredded. The best thing is, after the day of fasting, muscles are primed to gobble up any source of glycogen you throw at them so the vascularity is great too. The only downside of the diet, however, is a temporary loss of strength (the day after the fast). Of course, you can work around it and just work in volume and conditioning days at that time.


#15

Including some pics from the day after fast for the pics or didn’t happen crew:

Flat due to low glycogen levels, but little water retention to speak off. Included day light and neo lighting pics so that you can get a more accurate representation of my condition.

AND AFTER a little carb up today (workout nutrition, around 100 grams of carbs in total + 60 grams of carbs from breakfast). Slightly more water retention but still relatively dry from the previous day of fasting.


#16

and do you eat salt and dairy when you look like this? this is “hello” from the past to you :slight_smile: i decide to i clude cottage cheese again (because soon enough my head will look like your and i’m a woman, so it’s not look so attractive on me). doctors assumed because of lot protein and not enough calcium i’m going bald. so… here we are with cottage cheese. i don’t want to loose my veins and lower abs, but few days of cottage cheese(1-2tablespoon in egg white omelette) - and I’m look like i’m 2 month pregnant :sob: please advice me something useful :disappointed:


#17

Btw she’s anorexic


#18

u are anorexic yourself
come here and look at me
and you’ll see i’m nowhere close to anorexic :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#19

sup bro, how did the Layers treat you?